We take no position on yeast, as it seems that there are perfectly good arguments (and histories) on both sides.
And as readers who put up with our occasional rant about worship have probably gathered, we find that Lutheran worship, for all its wonderful-and-wretched diversity of practice, has generally gravitated toward the preservation (or, at least, restoration) of the central -- and ecumenical -- symbols. Especially since the Common Service, and comparable restorative gestures among the European churches, our worship life has tended away from sectarian distinctiveness. This is a very good thing.
But it leaves us wondering: What, in the conduct of worship and especially of the Mass, is distinctively Lutheran? What is it that, if you were to walk into a strange church on Sunday, would identify it for you as a community loyal to the Augsburg Confession? Beyond the frequent singing of A Mighty Fortress, we mean.
Our first thought was the Brief Order, but its is close enough to the Roman penitential rite, at least in structure. Here were our first thoughts on the subject:
- The Kyrie. And Greco-Latinizing generally. Ever since the Service Book and Hymnal, many of us have used a "kyrie" based loosely on the offertory ektene in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. This is one of the numerous eastward tips of the hat (like the Eucharistic prayer beginning "Holy art thou ..." and the Vespers litany) made by Luther D. Reed and Eugene Brand, and there is nothing inherently wrong with any of them. But they do seem odd in a Western service. Incidentally, our parish has been using the Latin Kyrie from With One Voice and found it quite satisfactory.
- Singing the Nunc dimittis after communion. Most people sing it at Vespers or Compline.
- Historically, the very strange prohibition against self-communion by pastors. Although not presently on the books, at least in the ELCA, it has a long, long history among Lutherans. And, as Toivo Harjunpaa make clear, among absolutely nobody else. This must be one of the weirdest, dumbest and least ecumenical innovations ever to take root in the Reformation traditions. It is right up there with, and may well surpass, south-facing celebration in Anglicanism.
There are surely some other distinctives, but none come immediately to mind. We don't mean hymns, or homiletical emphases. We mean structural elements, especially of the Sunday service. Any thoughts, readers?